The past weekend, it was time to race on the updated trails of the Fool’s Gold 100. At the registration, the day before the race, it started to downpour. Of course, everybody present at last year edition had flashback of the mud bath. The weather forecast was pretty much the same for race day: hot and humid with a chance of thundershower.
My objective was to make tempo on the first major climb and try to have Jeff Schalk work a little harder than he would if he was in the lead. Although there was a price for the first person to reach the top of the mountain, nobody surged such that I ended up winning the king of the mountain price. I continued to make the pace past aid station #1 with only Jeff Schalk and Robert Marion as companions.
After a brief time where Robert led us in the single track trails, I regained the lead and upped the pace. It was too much for Robert, leaving Jeff and I at the front. Nothing really changed until shortly before aid station #4. At that point, my rear tire was completely deflated causing me to first slow down and finally stop for proper fixing.
It was a speedy stop and Jeff could not be too far. I pedaled pretty hard until the intersection where turning right was leading back to the start finish line and turning left was the start of the second lap. A volunteer steered me to the proper route as I was chasing Jeff.
On the longest climb, I was trying to get glimpse of Jeff ahead of me… but I could not see anyone. I kept my hard effort constant for a good 40 minutes but apparently I was not closing the gap. By then, the hot and humid weather conditions had me drink too much and I started to feel a growing discomfort in my stomach.
Things went worse when I fell hard between aid #2 and aid #3. My front tire was flat. I was mad at myself as fixing flats is not the way to close gaps. At aid station #3, I was told that Jeff went off course and I was in the lead. What was the time margin? I had no ideas but enough to fix the flat…
20 minutes later it started to rain and shortly after I was under a sustained downpour. The trails transformed immediately into running creeks. I was frustrated that it rained because my reduced vision was the factor limiting my speed, not my legs or my technical skills.
Very strangely on an absolute smooth trail, my front tire went flat instantaneously, apparently for no reasons. Of course, my frustration level kicked up another notch. Finally, I reached the paved road leading to the finish. I could discern a wobble in the front tire. I crossed my fingers because I was out of tubes. The grass stuck between the rim and the tire bead while very colorful added to my concern that the tire might get flat again.
Fortunately the bike held together until the finish where I crossed the line first. I was extremely pleased until I was told that Jeff being off course was caused by an error of the organization: the volunteer who steered me toward my second lap was not there for Jeff. He rode 21 minutes to reach back to the intersection but yet was only few minutes behind me at the finish.
This error of the organization severely disturbed the race dynamics and to my point of view, calling Jeff and I tied winner of the race was the right thing to do.
Right now, my bike is in intensive care: both wheels are cracked. The front rim has exposed splinters that probably caused my third flat and I also discovered that my front chain ring is missing 5 teeth after an impact with a large stone…
Next N.U.E. stop: the Shenandoah 100. Being tied in points with Jeff Schalk, the championship will be decided by this only race!